Monday, 3 January 2011

Whose "racist bile"?

Surprisingly there were no letters published by the Scotsman in reply to a recent missive accusing Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray of "racist bile" in relation to when he "clearly ridiculed Ireland, Iceland and Montenegro" in the most recent session of FMQs.

If the letter writer is correct then the vast majority of Scottish Nationalists are guilty of "racist bile" towards anyone categorising themselves as British, surely?

However, I personally wouldn't characterise this type of discourse in such a ludicrous and incendiary manner, but if the Scotsman's correspondent feels vindicated by the lack of a (published) response, then he is unfortunately likely to feel even more encouraged by the subsequent diplomatic spat between Iain Gray and the state of Montenegro, which has taken issue with the MSP's remarks.

At FMQs Mr Gray said the SNP's website claimed: "Montenegro shows us just how easy it can be to become an independent country."

But he then said it took "40 days, two world wars, the Balkan conflict, ethnic cleansing, a war crimes tribunal and a UN peacekeeping mission".

In a letter to the Scottish Labour leader, Marijana Zivkovic, chargé d'affaires at the Montenegro embassy in London, expressed her "deep regret" over Mr Gray's claims, and said: "Your statement that Montenegro was involved in 'ethnic cleansing', including your references to 'a war crimes tribunal and a UN peacekeeping mission' is simply incorrect."

In fact he didn't claim that Montenegro was involved in ethnic cleansing etc at all, and was quite obviously (with hindsight, at least!) talking about the wider context of the Balkan conflict.

Of course, there's no doubting that Mr Gray's remarks were undiplomatic and a tad cack-handed, but unfortunately that's the consequence of operating in an environment of soundbites, which was begat by the SNP's equally crude characterisation of events. In turn, the Montenegrin diplomat's response was eminently predictable, irrespective of the facts of the matter and what Iain Gray actually said.

And while there's little point in delving into the minutiae of Montenegrin history here, what's this in a UN General Assembly document, for example?:
Gravely concerned about the deterioration of the situation in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina owing to intensified aggressive acts by the Serbian and Montenegrin forces to acquire more territories by force, characterized by a consistent pattern of gross and systematic violations of human rights, a burgeoning refugee population resulting from mass expulsions of defenceless civilians from their homes and the existence in Serbian and Montenegrin controlled areas of concentration camps and detention centres, in pursuit of the abhorrent policy of "ethnic cleansing", which is a form of genocide.

Strongly condemning Serbia and Montenegro and their surrogates in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina for their continued non-compliance with all relevant United Nations resolutions.
The bottom line is perhaps that none of the protagonists in all of this should be wholly believed, but the most ridiculous aspect to all of the above is the Scotsman correspondent's characterisation of Iain Gray's FMQs remarks as "ridiculing" and "racist", and that was even before the essential content of what he said was questioned; it was clearly criticism of other countries per se that was considered beyond the pale.

Unfortunately if the SNP wants to cite other small nations in support of its quest for independence then if the facts don't quite live up to the soundbites and sloganeering then the truth should be told. Surely we can't accept the likes of the "arc of prosperity" claim at face value and allow any dissent from this to be characterised as "racist bile"?

It might be slightly reassuring to suggest that we've only got another four months of this kind of thing before May's Holyrood elections, but in truth nonsense of this ilk will only be exacerbated in the coming weeks; Holyrood's short history demonstrates that the chances of any long-term elevation of Scottish political discourse from its current dismal level are remote indeed.


Indy said...

Iain Gray's comment are a matter of public record for anyone to read in the Official Report of the Scottish Parliament.

He deliberately and intentionally associated Montenegro with "two world wars, the Balkan conflict, ethnic cleansing, a war crimes tribunal and a UN peacekeeping mission".

It was a foolish and profoundly ignorant comment. Basically, Mr Gray doesn't know the difference between Montenegro and Serbia - does he even know that the country Montenegro gained its independence from was Serbia?

It can only end with an apology as his comments are literally indefensible.

Stuart Winton said...

As I said, you can equally construe what he said as referring to the environment in which Montenegro eventually became independent.

Of course, the SNP and yourself will want to put the worst possible construction on it, but even so it's no worse than the SNP's interpretation of the process leading to independence, which reads like some kind of step-by-step instructions from a cook book!!

Indy said...

Do you seriously not get this?

You cannot "construe" Iain Gray's remarks about ethnic cleansing etc to refer to any place other than Montenegro, which is why that country is so annoyed.

Stuart Winton said...

Well what did you expect Montenegro to say, whatever the facts of the matter?

Perhaps you, me and the diplomat are reading different versions of what Gray said, but the versions of events that I've read don't literally have him saying that the country was INVOLVED in the ethnic cleansing etc, do they?

I mean, his words could be reasonably construed as saying that Montenegro had nothing to do with the ethnic cleansing etc.

What Iain Gray actually meant I don't know - that's for him to defend - but when I heard him in Holyrood I wondered, not being particularly au fait with the minutiae of the area's history, whether he was referring to Montenegro per se or the wider Balkans environment, because what he said could have been interpreted eihter way.

Anonymous said...

What the blog writer has failed to comprehend is the actual pathetically ham fisted way Gray delivered (a poor orator to begin with) the innuendo about what countries do to gain their Independence was begun with the word "Montenegro" followed on cue by jeers and laughter by the chimp Labour MSP's obviously not remembering that it was being filmed.

You appear to base your rather gentle interpretation of Gray's sad rant on 'what I heard", go onto youtube and actually view it!


Go on to newsnet scotland and watch it, and imagine you tuned into any parliament in the world and watched these cheese mechanics roaring with laughter every time your country was mentioned, then you'd gain a better perspective on whether it was a complete kick in the teeth.

How necessary is it for these labour buffoons to slag off any country that is Independent, their erroneous belief that 'Britain' is the way forward economically or otherwise really would be a comedic event if it wasn't so serious.


Anonymous said...

Kinghob said:

A further insight: If Gray actually had the intelligence to mention the 'wider context' that surrounded the history of the Balkan states he would have done so, but, like his advisors, he lacked the insight and oratory ability to convey his point, which was basically warning some presumed dumbo he believes is "out there" that the SNP want to put Scotland through "ethnic cleansing" or suchlike to gain Independence.

That was the basic premise of this utter clown, a person incidentally who has to point his grubby fingers at other countries because he has no ideas whatsoever to put to the Scottish Parliament, that is how vacuous he is.

Pure and utter drivel, the bottom feeders of politics these labour baboons, and what an enormous embarrassment to people here.

If you imagine Miliband at westminster questions talking such guff about Montenegro during PMQ's, can you see it being anything other than a diplomatic incident and a field day for cameron et al?

Stuart Winton said...

Yes, I've watched the YouTube video. Gray juxtaposed the SNP's claim that "ALL IT TOOK" was 40 days for Montenegro to gain its independence, which showed "just how easy it could be" with "two world wars, the Balkan conflict, ethnic cleansing, a war crimes tribunal and a UN peacekeeping mission".

I can't see where he said Montenegro was involved in ethnic cleansing etc, and the reference to the Balkan war etc demonstrates that he was talking about the wider context of Montenegro's independence rather than the country per se.

Of course, what he said may have been construed by many as undiplomatic, but I'm just a lowly member of the public and deal in facts rather than international diplomacy, so that's Iain Gray's problem, not mine.

And if his rhetoric was over the top then the SNP's claim is equally ludicrous.

As for the references to Labour chimps etc, both parties seem much of a muchness in this regard, but I wouldn't personally stoop to abuse like that.

Indeed, it's stuff like this that ensures that I probably won't be voting for either Labour or the SNP, or indeed any of the others.

Of course, part of the problem is that - as per the Scotsman letter writer - any criticism of selected countris is deemed unacceptable, but it's OK when more unpalatabe nations are being slagged, most notably the USA and the UK. Not that I'm a particular fan of either, but the whole thing is steeped in hypocrisy.

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